Food Security and managing Wheat Imports in Pakistan

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Meher Azeem Hakro
Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), a government agency in Pakistan, has issued an international tender for the purchase and import of 1.5 million tons of wheat and has invited offers, including cost and freight charges to Karachi port. The tender will close on August 18 and the wheat import tender will also be opened on the same day. The decline in wheat production in the country has led to a sharp rise in its prices. So the government decided to import wheat to make up for the shortfall. In this regard, the
government has allowed the import of wheat through TCP and the private sector. The federal government believes that there are sufficient official wheat stocks in the country and if the wheat is released by provinces and PASSCO now, the prices may go down. In case the country's reserves exhaust, imported wheat will become available in the country, which will offset the subsequent shortage. The federal government has been insisting the Sindh government to release wheat from the official stock so that to stabilize wheat flour price in the market. However, Sindh's position is that
they will not release wheat before September. It is also their viewpoint that if official wheat stocks are depleted in the country, prices can go up further in the country. The Sindh government has a total of 1.3 million tons of stocks available and should now release little quantity at least 0.3 million tons of wheat to flour mills. This will also reduce the prices in the market to a great extent. The rest of the wheat they should release as per their schedule in the month of September. However, the current situation may
return to normal after August 25, when a good quantity of imported wheat is expected to arrive in Karachi. Consumption of wheat in the country is 2.2 million tons per month and we will have to import another 1.5 million tons of wheat for our needs. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) approved the import of 1.5 million tons of wheat to meet the shortfall and bring down prices in the domestic market. Moreover, private and public sectors have been allowed to import wheat to meet the deficit of commodity. In this regard, the private sector has so far booked 270,000 tons of wheat through the Black
Sea route, which will be available in the country in September or earlier. Wheat is being imported in such a large quantity in the country, it will be a big challenge for TCP, NFS&R and the provinces to efficiently distribute and release the wheat to flour mills because arranging berth space and vessels to import 1.5 million tons of wheat in such a short time is a big challenge for the government. It is also a test for the government to handle such large quantities of imports and distribute wheat efficiently. On
the one hand, the country's economy is slowing down due to Covid-19, which lacks transportation, and on the other hand, heavy monsoon rains are flooding the country. In such a situation, making wheat available is a big challenge for the government. Therefore, the government should make arrangements in advance for its transportation by railways cargo and public goods. If not properly transported, such a large quantity of wheat lying at the seaport can be spoiled, unhealthy and unfit for human consumption.